For people coming to Slovenia, one of the most prominent icons you’ll see is the dragon symbol of Ljubljana. The Ljubljana dragon is the most recognizable citizen of the city, but what significance does it have?
Ljubljana’s Dragon receives regard as the symbol and protector of Ljubljana. It is visible in almost every official representation of the city, including its coat of arms. Legend states that the Dragon was the marsh monster that Jason and the Argonauts fought in their mythologies.
If you’re curious about this ubiquitous symbol, you’re in luck. Here’s everything you need to know about Ljubljana’s Dragon and how you can find it around the city.
The Legend of Ljubljana’s Dragon
The history of the Ljubljana’s Dragon comes from its real-life construction and its mythology. The mythology surrounding the Dragon is fascinating and its real history is superb. Whichever you look at it, you will likely enjoy learning them.
The legend of the Dragon of Ljubljana comes back to the epic of Jason and the Argonauts. For the uninitiated, Jason and his Argonauts are Greek heroes on a quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their quest made them sail different isles and cities, encountering danger in every way.
According to the story, Jason and his Argonauts sailed to Colchis. Colchis is the modern-day Black Sea coast of Georgia. As he is looking for the Golden Fleece, Jason had to perform three tasks set by the King of Colchis.
Jason succeeded with the help of Medea, the king’s daughter who fell in love with the hero. Jason and his team earn the Golden Fleece defeating the dragon and run away with Medea in tow. Even if the hero won Medea’s hand and the Fleece, Jason and the Argo had to evade the king’s fleet.
The Founding of Ljubljana
The Argo will eventually evade the entire pursuit, but their haste caused a critical error. Instead of going south to the Aegean Sea, the Argo now entered the mouth of the Danube River instead.
The Argos continue sailing the Danube, going their way to the Sava and eventually to the source, the Ljubljanica River. The source of the river is marshy and Jason, with his band, need to dismantle their ship as the waters grew shallow.
Jason then decided to cross the land towards the Adriatic Sea, but winter came. The heroes settled in the locale to wait for more favorable weather. The Argonauts built a village on the marsh, but they made it on top of a dragon’s hunting grounds.
The Dragon attacked the village, spitting fire and burning half of their homes. Some of the Argonauts drowned, with one taken as dinner by the Dragon.
Jason then set out to kill the Dragon, wading through the marsh and finding a large island being the Dragon’s den.
Jason and Medea attacked the Dragon but failing to do damage to it. Medea counseled Jason to bind the Dragon’s mouth and close off its nostrils with its victims’ bones. With nowhere to exhale, the Dragon exploded, combusting under its own fire.
Jason decided to return to Greece, but several Argonauts decided to settle the fertile lands around Ljubljana. The first settlement became the Roman fort of Emona, which became present-day Ljubljana.
The True History of the Ljubljana Dragon
As interesting as the myth is, the real history of Ljubljana’s Dragon is as fascinating. The real accepted history of the Dragon comes from Saint George, known as the patron saint of Ljubljana Castle’s chapel.
The Ljubljana Castle came in the 15th century, following the legend of its patron saint. The legend of Saint George shows the slaying of a dragon who demanded human sacrifice. The saint then rescues the princess, which was the quintessential knight vs dragon story.
The entire legend was also a symbolism of Christianity and the religion overcoming paganism. The Dragon eventually became the city’s coat of arms. Through the Baroque period, it outweighed everything else when it comes to importance.
Through the centuries, the Dragon became the symbol of Ljubljana. It became the capital city’s protector and perched over it, overseeing everything happening. It became a symbol of courage, wisdom, and power to the entire country.
The story of dragons in Ljubljana did not stop at legends. The dragon stories of Ljubljana connected to the existence of real-life “baby dragons.” These come in the form of Olms or aquatic cave salamanders.
The first records of “baby dragons” existed in a cave beneath the spring of Vrhnika, near Ljubljana. By the 19th century, villagers sell the salamanders as tourist products. Today, the “baby dragons” still exist in the caves of Postojna and Skocjan.
Where Can You Find The Dragon of Ljubljana?
So, where can you find the Dragon of Ljubljana? If you want to see them all, it’s best to move around the entire city, either on foot or through taxi. Many of the dragons scatter around the city itself.
For the best experience, it’s best to have an expert tour guide with you. They can help you appreciate the context and history of the locale better. Guided tours can also streamline the whole experience instead of random explorations.
The Dragon Bridge
The most prominent tourist spot to find the Ljubljana Dragon is the Dragon Bridge. Locally known as the Zmajski most, the bridge crosses the Ljubljanica River. Visitors can find it between Kopitar and Ressel Street (Kopitarjeva ulica and Resljeva cesta).
The bridge was originally the Franca Jožefa I. jubilejni most or the Jubilee Bridge of the Emperor Franz Josef I. By 1919, the bridge was called the Dragon Bridge.
The bridge itself has four sheet-copper dragon statues on four corners, standing atop the pedestals. There are also 16 smaller dragons that visitors can find in the area.
The copper dragons have now received a greenish patina due to their age, making them much more beautiful than ever.
The Ljubljana Castle
The other, most significant locale with the Dragon of Ljubljana is the Ljubljana Castle. Known to locals as the Ljubljanski grad, it stands atop Castle Hill in downtown Ljubljana.
The castle is among the oldest structures in the city, dating as far as the 11th century. Its present looks, however, comes from a near-total overhaul in the 15th century. The castle was a fort and, in the 14th century, became the seat of the lords of Carniola.
The entirety of the castle is brimming with history, beautifully preserved over the centuries. Its walls are still in superb shape, and the castle offers many events to its visitors.
People visiting Ljubljana Castle will find restaurants, music, and different events. One of its most famous daily events is the Escape Castle event.
Escape Castle lets you and your friends play an escape room style game. The primary objective is to save the Dragon, with five total trials awaiting every team.
The entire challenge lets you delve deep into the whole legend and history of the castle and local Ljubljana.
Players will have one hour to play and try to revive the castle’s Dragon.
The Dragon Festival and Dragon Carnival
If you want to enjoy an event with the people of Ljubljana, there’s also the Dragon Festival every year. During the festival, visitors will see the Dragon all over the city. You will find floats and carnivals with a dragon design.
You’ll even find Slovenian products and furniture with a dragon emblem on them. The Dragon Carnival also happens every winter, starting with a parade on the streets and includes many figures in pagan Slovenian mythology.
The Dragon’s fest also invites many musicians from across Slovenia and globally too. There are dances, acrobatic performances, workshops, and more. The event happens in and around Ljubljana Castle, with different festival grub available to festival-goers.
By the end of the day, fire shows will be among the main attractions of the entire festival.
Dragon Souvenirs All Over Ljubljana
For visitors who want to have a piece of the Ljubljana dragon for themselves, there are also souvenirs available around the city. Many locales have dragon souvenirs for people who wish to bring a part of Ljubljana for themselves.
You will find dragon plushies in town as the city’s official mascot. Ljubo is the town’s official mascot, which is a little green dragon that likes to carry different things. Ljubo usually carries a red heart with him, which looks adorable.
There are also aprons, tote bags, mittens, school bags, and much more. The design is not only adorable but it brings with you a little of Ljubljana with you.
The Dragon Symbol of Ljubljana Is Not Only A Myth
The dragon symbol of Ljubljana is among the most enduring figures of Slovenia. Its legend and history represent the fiery courage and wisdom of its people. It also shows the beauty of Ljubljana and its many sought after locales.
If you’re visiting Ljubljana any time soon, why not look for the Dragon of legend? We’re sure you and the people you love would see why this creature represents much of the capital city and its people.
If you’re not sure how to approach Slovenia, why not visit with a tour guide? Book a tour guide with you and listen to the oral history Ljubljana has to offer. Talk to an expert tour guide now and find out how you can see the legend for yourself.